The other day I was having coffee with my brother and we saw a couple arguing next to us. It wasn’t a particularly bad argument, but she complained that he just stayed inside and played video games on his days off.
He was upset because she had ordered the most expensive coffee drink and accused her of never caring about finances, especially since he was the only one of the two that had a job.
She had a big shiny diamond on her finger, which means they were engaged and going to be married. Maybe they were madly in love and this was just a minor bump in their road to lifetime happiness. But, if it’s anything like most relationships, it’s an indicator of larger problems.
We tend to think of relationships in terms of toxic, troubled, and bad on one side or great, passionate, and successful on the other. However, most relationships are simply mediocre, not good, but not really bad either.
However, these mediocre relationships can be problematic because they keep the people in them from actually experiencing relationship happiness. I know many men and women who yearn for a passionate, happy relationship, but they never find it because their relationship isn’t great or even passable, but it also isn’t bad enough to end it.
If you or someone you know is in a mediocre relationship, here are four reasons why people settle for average instead of seeking someone better.
You Think You Can’t Do Better
I know a woman who is highly educated and attractive. She’s currently in a long term relationship with a jobless guy who plays video games most of the day (financed by her income). She complains about the relationship constantly, but never leaves. To his credit, he is a decent human being.
I asked her why she stayed with him and her answer was more or less that she didn’t want to be single and she could definitely do worse. I believe this is why many men and women stay in mediocre relationships: wanting better, but fearing the worst.
In many ways, relationships are like gambling. You can play it safe or roll the dice on happiness. Rolling the dice could mean being insanely happy or completely single.
Although most people want to bet on happiness, they fear that they will instead get misery if they take a risk. So, they settle for less misery instead by staying in mediocre relationships.
There is risk with everything in life. You might be in a blah, generally unfulfilling relationship. But, you might end it and be lonely. Or, you could get in a terrible relationship instead. You also might find your soulmate. Can you handle the risk to find the possible reward?
You Have Needs (Other Than Love)
A guy I know was divorced by his wife and it was a long time coming. The relationship had been failing for years and he hated it, but he could never pull the trigger. She finally got the guts to end it.
Yet, within a year, he was married again, also to someone he didn’t really like that much. But, he settled because, as he admitted, he liked someone to take care of him.
People get into less than happy relationships all the time to meet certain needs. Maybe a woman needs a guy with a steady income so she marries someone she doesn’t really love because he has a regular paycheck. Or, a guy hated the dating scene so he puts up with a boring, unattractive girlfriend because he fears being lonely again.
There’s nothing wrong with having basic needs and getting them met in relationships. However, when these needs overshadow a general desire for happiness, you end up sacrificing happiness to achieve stability.
Things like money, getting out of your parent’s house, a warm body next to you, someone to do your laundry, and so on might be great things… but are they the right reasons to be with someone long term?
If your relationship is mediocre, then maybe you are in it because your partner provides something. However, if that “something” isn’t love, happiness, and fulfillment, then perhaps you’re in the relationship for the wrong reasons.
“Isn’t it about time you moved out of the house?”
“Your biological clock is ticking.”
I’m sure you’ve heard these or similar admonishments from family and friends who think you might be moving too slow, acting in the wrong way, or not living up to societal expectations. You might think you’re an independent man or woman, but, in many ways, you act in relationships according to years of parental and cultural conditioning.
And, many people stay in passionless, mediocre relationships because of this outside pressure. It’s especially evident in religious and other social contexts. People feel it’s better not to offend religious sensibilities or make a family “look bad” than to actually end a relationship and find real happiness.
You’re In A Rut
My cousin just got engaged. She excitedly announced on social media that she said “yes.” The hilarious thing is that she has complained about this guy to everyone for the last two years, sometimes publicly on social media.
I asked why she accepted his engagement. She said because she dated him for so long, she might as well get engaged. The problem is that this line of miserable thinking could lead her into unhappiness for the rest of her life.
Most mediocre relationships exist because both people have been in it for so long they’ve gotten into a rut. At one point, both partners had a passion for each other and a meaningful relationship. But, after several years they are together “just because.” If asked to list actual reasons, they’d be hard pressed.
However, is being with someone for a long time a good reason to stick together?
This is called the “sunk cost” fallacy. It’s the concept that because you’ve invested a lot of money or time into something, you have to continue to do it. It’s a fallacy because throwing away future money or time into a bad venture is just wasting more precious money and time.
Are you staying with someone you don’t love just because you’ve already invested time and energy?
If so, you might be falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy in your relationship. Throwing away more time and energy isn’t going to suddenly make the relationship better.
I’d never tell anyone to end a relationship unless there was abuse. However, if you’re in a relationship that isn’t terrible, but isn’t great, you might want to actually assess why you’re in it. You might discover that it really is a great relationship. Or, you might decide it’s time to move on and take the risk to find a passionate partner you can truly love.
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